UCSB Santa Barbara Department of History logo

UC President’s Faculty Research Fellowships Awarded to Profs. Keel and McDonald

Christian Thought and Racial Science, and Travel in Imperial Japan are their topics.

The Religious Pursuit of Race: Christian Thought and the Development of Modern Racial Science

With this fellowship Dr. Keel will complete his first book The Religious Pursuit of Race: Christian Thought and the Development of Modern Racial Science, which is currently under contract with Stanford University Press. With this project Keel offers a new account of the origin and development of modern scientific ideas about race. Focusing on the cultural context and epistemological conditions that enable the production of scientific knowledge, The Religious Pursuit of Race recovers the overlooked, yet persistent, links between Christian natural philosophy and modern scientific perceptions of human difference. Keel looks to challenge prevailing assumptions about the progressive transformation of western natural philosophy into a distinctly modern secular activity, freed of all traces of Christian theology. Keel argues that the advance of racial science does not fit easily within such a tidy narrative of linear secularism as was assumed by a generation of historians and anthropologists who penned seminal works on the history of evolutionary thought after the second world war. Instead, he looks to show how theological ideas about the order of nature, ancestry, and human difference were carried over into modern racial science, facilitating its proliferation as a new authority on the question of human origins in the time between the Enlightenment and contemporary genetic science.

Placing Empire: Travel and the Social Imagination in Imperial Japan

Professor McDonald will also use her fellowship to complete her first book, Placing Empire: Travel and the Social Imagination in Imperial Japan. In Placing Empire, McDonald offers a new account of the history of place and the modern world. Challenging the notion that railways and telegraphs threatened the survival of distinct places and local cultures in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, McDonald shows that it was precisely this moment in which place became a powerful political tool for sustaining liberal empires. Focusing on the history of travel and tourism in the Japanese Empire, McDonald argues that the spatial politics of empire do not fit easily into the standard categories of metropole and colony. Instead, McDonald shows how Japanese colonial settlers used debates over the place of colonial territories, their peoples, and their cultures to promote a vision of Japan as a multicultural territory, yet one that used labor and language to naturalize a distinct hierarchy between Japanese and colonized peoples. Locating the emergence of “local color” squarely in the heart of settler colonialism, McDonald argues that placing colonial territory and colonial cultures within the nation as dehistoricized and depoliticized “local color” was a powerfully political act which, in the face of colonial uprisings and Wilson’s self-determination, facilitated the transformation of settler colonial empires into multicultural nation-states.

We congratulate our colleagues on these prestigeous awards!

hm 4/17/15